CONSTRUCTION workers staged a protest outside a Capenhurst nuclear site at dawn last Wednesday.

Activists from the GMB and Unite trade unions staged a protest at Urenco in Capenhurst amid concern about attacks on the National Agreement for the Engineering and Construction Industry (NAECI).

Jacobs Engineering, a major contractor at the site, and Urenco management have argued work taking place at Capenhurst is not covered by the National Agreement, because the project is too small.

But that contradicts a long-established understanding about the decommissioning work.

Jacobs have also recently replaced their human resources manager, bringing in a manager who was involved in trying to break the NAECI Agreement at the Lindsey Oil Refinery, on Humberside.

The national agreement covers electricians, plumbers and tradesmen on construction sites.

Key to the concern of construction workers is health and safety and the statutory right to trade union health and safety reps to be elected.

Ray McHale, of West Cheshire TUC, said: “There is a clear view that organised and unionised sites are safer, because employers meet resistance if they try to cut corners. On average 59 construction workers are killed every year due to work accidents.

“This number is significantly disproportionate to the size of the workforce employed in construction.

“About half of the workers killed are deemed to be ‘self-employed’, a method used by employers to increase flexibility and to undermine union organisation, in an industry which by its nature moves from job to job.”

A statement on behalf of Jacobs and Urenco ChemPlants expressed ‘surprise’ at the decision to hold industrial action.

It read: “Jacobs and Urenco ChemPlants Ltd have given assurances to abide by all national industry collective agreements which are appropriate to the type of work.

“It is anticipated that, based around the previous discussions, the outstanding issues will be resolved amicably.

“We were, therefore, both surprised and disappointed to learn of the joint union decision, which will cause disruption to the construction programme at the TMF site and disturbance to the residents of Capenhurst village.”